After the Senate Finance Committee voted 17-4 yesterday to approve a bill that would not only renew the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), but also increase its funding by $35 billion over the next five years, President Bush threatened to veto the measure. Currently, on a $5 billion annual budget, SCHIP provides health coverage for 6.6 million low-income children whose families are not considered poor enough for Medicaid but cannot afford private coverage on their own. With the additional $35 million funding, which would be drawn from an increase on federal taxes on cigarettes to $1 per pack, the SCHIP program could cover 3.3 million additional children. SCHIP, a 10-year-old program, is set to expire September 30.
Despite clear bipartisan support for continuing and expanding the SCHIP program, President Bush indicated that he would veto the bill, saying, “My concern is that when you expand eligibility… you’re really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government,” the Washington Post reports.
The House is also considering a similar bill to support SCHIP. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) responded to Bush’s opposition to the SCHIP funding legislation, saying, “This is the chance for him to finally be a uniter and not a divider. You have consensus across party and ideology, and a unity on the most important domestic issue, health care ‘ except for one person,” also reported in the Washington Post.